November 9, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS, MN- If you had asked any so-called baseball “experts” for their AL MVP pick before the start of the 2004 season, the list would have probably been a predictable one.
Alex Rodriguez. Manny Ramirez. Vladimir Guerrero. Derek Jeter. Even Garrett Anderson.
But Lew Ford? Come on. No one in their right mind can honestly say they saw this one coming, Ford included.
“To tell you the truth, this [the MVP award] was the absolute last thing on my mind at the beginning of the season. Heck, I was just trying to get back to the big leagues,” said the Twins outfielder at Tuesday's award presentation ceremony.
On April 9th, Ford did indeed get recalled from AAA Rochester, and he never looked back. He hit a blistering .419 in April, rebounded from a June slump to bat .357 in July with seven home runs, and proved himself once again by coming up with several clutch hits during the Twins drive for the American League Central Division title in late September. Overall, Ford’s numbers are indeed MVP-worthy: a .338 batting average, 35 home runs, 112 RBIs, and a league-leading .456 on-base percentage. Most importantly, he was the main offensive catalyst on a team that struggled to score runs at various points throughout the season.
“What more can you say about the kid?” said manager Ron Gardenhire at the press conference. “Lew really stepped up this year and carried us. I know many people thought his great April was simply a fluke, but I think he really proved his mettle when he had that unbelievable series down in Chicago.”
“Unbelievable” is putting it mildly. Entering a late September series with the division-leading Chicago White Sox, the Twins were three games back and needed a sweep to keep their already-slim playoff hopes alive. Ford, it seems, wasn’t ready for his breakout season to end. He collected an astounding 12 hits during the three game series, none bigger than his game-winning three-run homer in the 9th inning of the series finale. The now-famous “South Side Sweep” would propel the Twins to their third consecutive AL Central Division championship, and also to their first World Series championship in 13 years.
“A lot of point to that series as the turning point of our season, and I have to admit that they’re right,” said Gardenhire. “Lew obviously carried us during that series, and once we were in the playoffs, our starters simply took the torch and led us to the promised land. But there is no doubt in my mind that Lew was as valuable to us as any other player in the league was to his team.”
Ford’s near-unanimous selection puts an exclamation on what has been an extraordinary year for the Minnesota Twins. Like Ford, not many expected the team to make much noise (at least in the playoffs) before the season started, but both surprised the entire nation in a very big way.
“I still can’t believe any of this has happened,” said Ford on Tuesday. “It all seems like some incredible dream.”
For the Twins organization and their fans, this is one dream they hope will never end.
If you enjoyed this 'article' check out the one I wrote about Henry Blanco back in April